Dress-Down Friday for June 7, 2019

I’ve got some fun links to share today:

I read Austin Kleon’s book “Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad” and really enjoyed it. It came at a good time for me where I feel that my creativity has been languishing and as a friend told me recently, creativity is my oxygen. I like how Kleon gives some very simple and actionable ideas for helping keep these pieces alive. I found it a lot like his other books, which I also enjoyed, full of good quotes, great pictures, and things that make me slow down and think. 

Stephen Colbert’s recent interviewabout the power of comedy in the face of politics and how faith and morality play into his making sense of the world today.

Here are a few great podcasts to share:

Southern Reach Triology by John VanderMeer

If you’re into Science-Fiction, or are just looking for a good series of books to read over the summer, I cannot recommend enough the Southern Reach Trilogy by John Vandemeer.

Thanks to a friend who recently mailed me a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” I’ve been hearing about it for years but have never read it. Since I received it in the mail, I’ve been reading it every morning, trying my best to soak in every word. Here’s one line from my reading today that stood out to me.

Don’t you see that everything that happens becomes a beginning again and again? Could it not be [God’s] beginning, since a beginning in itself is always so beautiful.

App recommendation for the week:

I’ve been using Drafts of iOS and MacOSlike a maniac. I love this app! It is great for taking quick notes and hitting down ideas. Learn about Drafts in this great review from Rosemary Orchard.

Discerning Endings

New beginnings are hard. Endings may be even harder. It is hard to say goodbye. It is hard to see all the hard work, all the investment evaporate before our very eyes. It is hard to know when to let go. Some endings are not hard. Some endings are more like heroic escapes in the nick of time. That’s not what I want to address here. I want to address those endings that are hard to come by, hard fought, hard won: endings that feel more like death than relief.

“You’re Next” by Austin Kleon

I have experienced many endings in my life. Most of those endings were extremely difficult. I have shared some of them here. But most of these were more personal.

I want to lift up collective endings. Endings that mark a change in leadership. Endings that mark a change in the existence of a community: a church, an important program, or an organization or set of relationships we came to rely on.

Continue reading Discerning Endings

Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation (Resources)

My new book on Revelation “Resisting Empire,” has been out a couple of weeks and it’s a lot of fun seeing people download it, read it, and comment on it. If you didn’t know about it or get a chance to check it out, here is a link to the book.

I wanted to make a few more things available for the book that readers can download to use while you read.

Sketchnote Summaries

These are like graphic novel summaries, capturing key ideas from the book. Sketchnotes #3 is the one that summarizes the whole book into a few select images.

Downloadable Resources

The first download is a .pdf of some of the charts that show up in the book. Kindle doesn’t translate those charts very well so here there are which will be easier for you to read. The second link is a series of short devotionals based on the work within this book that was original published for “Fruit of the Vine” publication.

Review #1

If you are looking for a verse by verse commentary on the book of Revelation that will tell you what it “really means” then this is probably not the book you’re looking for.

Yes you will get interpretation. But what you will also get is an extended reflection on what it means to try and read the Apocalypse of John in this world which is so very different from the era in which John of Patmos was writing. And I hope you will take that extended reflection seriously because it will tell you something about how you can read the rest of the scriptures as well.

Let’s look at how we usually read Revelation. We see it as a kind of future history — the world’s first science fiction story if you will. It’s a call to arms it’s a call to join the winning team. And that means fighting the good fight now when it doesn’t look like were winning at hall in faith that God our quarterback will call us offside when the real fight begins. With this reading the beast and the false prophets and all the other strange critters crawling around the pages are all the other guys — there are the bad guys but where the good guys.

C. Wess Daniels presents us with a thoroughly biblical Christology of the Slaughtered Lamb. This is who Christ is for us and this is the model of faithfulness that Christ leaves with us. Life is not about fighting until the rapture comes — it’s about loving our enemies until the our enemies become friends. 

He examines this image of Christ using scapegoat theory. Scapegoat theory was made famous by René Girard the French literary and social sciences critic. But Daniel accesses a Girard mostly through James Alison — the Catholic theologian who applied Girard’s theories to theology. At the heart of our sinfulness lies our tendency to point fingers at other people to make our own discomfort at our vulnerability go away. This is a trap. And God’s way out of that trap is to place her faith in the Lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the world.

Read this book. Share it with others. Learn to have faith in a God who is more than just the biggest bully on the block. DavidMcKay | Apr 9, 2019

Review #2

Resisting Empire looks at the Book of Revelation through a different lens than the “Rapture” one that became popular a few generations ago. It reaches for an older reading, based in the Roman Imperial oppression experienced by the churches who received the revelation. This book draws a line between the “religion of empire” and the “religion of the lamb that was slain,” contrasting the lives we lead within each.

Daniels’ quote repertoire is alone a reason to read it. He’s pulling from James Cone, Martin Luther King Jr, James Alison, and Wes Howard-Brook.

If the Book of Revelation has always confused you, or if you’re turned off by Rapture Theology, this is one you’ll want to check out. It’s short too! –Maco April 8, 2019

If you read the book and like it, I’d love to have you leave a short comment on Amazon for me. Thank you in advance!

An Inward Sea by Howard Thurman

There is in every person an inward sea, and in that sea there is an island and on that island there is an altar and standing guard before that altar is the ”angel with the flaming sword.” Nothing can get by that angel to be placed upon that altar unless it has the mark of your inner authority. Nothing passes ”the angel with the flaming sword” to be placed upon your altar unless it be a part of ”the fluid area of your consent.” This is your crucial link with the Eternal.

Source: Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

Recently a friend shared this with a group I was with and it has stuck with me ever since. It is a powerful image and progression that moves to the inwardmost parts. The piece that really connects with me right now is that “nothing can get by that angel to be place upon that altar,” nothing…

New Book on Revelation “Resisting Empire” Coming Soon

Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation, my new book on Revelation, is coming soon from Barclay Press.

I’ve been working on a book about Revelation that offers a different perspective then the “Revelation as End-of-the-World” interpretation.

This book, Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation, published by Barclay Press, is coming out very soon and I wanted to give you a heads up to start watching out for it. It is in e-book form and will be available as an e-pub through Barclay Press, on Amazon, and, as I understand it, through the Our Bible App.

The general premise of the book is that Revelation, drawing on a number of other scholars, doesn’t have anything to do with predicting the end of the world, but rather is about how small, marginalized faith communities resisted and survived empire. The book lays out four practices that the author of Revelation points out are necessary for doing this.

You can read more about the book over on this guest column I wrote for Guilford College Gazette.

Stay tuned, I’ll announce when the book is officially out.

Four Key Aspects to Understanding Renewal in Faith Communities

“Kindness eases change
Love quiets fear”
― Octavia E. Butler

In a lot of my classes and work at Guilford College, I talk about renewal. I think that much of my work is focused around renewal, not because of a failure in the institution but because change is constant, change is inevitable, and with each new shift in leadership, change can be dramatic. These shifts unfold within the larger community and political systems in coordinated and inevitable. Therefore, some intentional approach to renewal is needed and necessary.

Without renewal we get stuck in the past.
Without renewal we devalue all that has been done before us.
We need someways of approach change-work that helps us hold these various pieces of the puzzle together.

Plenty of books have been written on the subject, including my own, which most readers of this blog are familiar with. A few other books that have been instructive to me in the past are: Managing Transitions by William and Susan; A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman; and Originals by Adam Grant.*

Regardless of what you draw on when you are working within a community, large or small, you will draw on something. We all have our own desires, ethics, and biases. If we’re not paying attention and being intentional with what we do and how we approach this work, it is very possible that we can do more harm than good. Secondly, while it is important to be aware of the things we bring to this work, it is equally important to know what the communities we are in or are working with bring. What are their own contexts, histories, biases, successes and failures? How will all of this play into the final mix?

Continue reading Four Key Aspects to Understanding Renewal in Faith Communities